Ohio’s Republicans started planning to redraw Ohio’s congressional districts soon after they took control of all statewide offices in 2010. According to the Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report, one of the primary goals of Republicans was to keep the process and the plans secret, and away from Democrats, the public and press, as long as possible.
The Voters First constitutional amendment, which will likely be on November’s ballot, intends to change the process to avoid this type of secrecy and partisan gerrymandering. The Republican response? It’s not transparent enough. I can only assume this is some kind of joke on the part of Republicans.
Planning for the secret redistricting operation actually started months before the process began. In May 2010, Mike Lenzo, Ohio House Majority Caucus Counsel, attended a redistricting training conducted by the Republican National Committee themed “Keep it secret, Keep it safe”.
Republican redistricting staff, Republican lawmakers and Republican statewide leaders, including the Governor’s office, appear to have followed the recommendations of Lenzo’s training – meeting in secret to work on redistricting efforts, likely in violation of Ohio’s open meetings law. Documents revealed in the Transparency Report show the Republican party was so obsessed with secrecy that they spent nearly $10,000 in taxpayer money to rent a secret hotel room in Columbus known as “the bunker” to meet on redistricting issues away from nosy reporters or, God Forbid!, members of the public interested in the process.
During the process, Republicans like John Boehner simply had to email the overpaid Republican “consultants” managing the process in order to get the lines redrawn to ensure long-time, big-money corporate Republican donors continued to have their company headquarters in a Republican-leaning district.
There is absolutely nothing about the recent redistricting process that would be considered open or transparent or public or the least bit fair. It was a process controlled, in secret, by Republicans, with the sole goal of helping to ensure that Republicans maintain control of as many congressional seats as possible.
In response to the apologetically biased and shameful actions of Ohio’s Republicans, the Voters First committee has come up with a better process that will put a Constitutional amendment on the November ballot to remove politicians from the redistricting process and put an independent Citizens Commission of Ohioans in charge. According to the group “Politicians, lobbyists and political insiders will be prohibited from serving on the commission, and everything the commission does will be out in the open for all of us to see.”
It sounds like a pretty damn good idea if you ask me. Not surprisingly, Republicans aren’t so keen on the idea of private citizens undermining their secret process.
In a recent Gongwer piece, Republican State Rep. Lou Blessing attacked the Voters First proposal for, no kidding, not being transparent enough. Blessing fully admits the current process allowed Republicans to “maximize their own political advantage” but he, not kidding, faults the Voters First proposal for not specifically addressing “public meetings and public records” during the pre-selection process of commissioners.
I literally laughed out loud when I read this statement from Blessing. He must be joking, right?
Not only did Republicans likely break all kinds of public meetings rules by hiding out in a taxpayer-funded hotel room for three months, they also refused to release large numbers of records. So the crazy stuff we already know about the process is likely only the tip of the iceberg.
And Blessing thinks the Voters First process isn’t open enough?
I think Lou Blessing missed his true calling. Next legislative session, someone needs to nominate Lou for Comedian Pro Tempore of the House.